Parallel vs perpendicular

Parallel and perpendicular are two words that are often confused with each other. We’ll look at the meaning of parallel and perpendicular, how the two words differ, their origins, and examine some examples of their use in sentences.

Parallel describes two lines or planes that exist side by side with a continually equal distance between them. Things that are parallel never meet. The word parallel is also used to describe two things that are coexisting or are similar in some manner. If something is described as being without parallel, that thing is absolutely unique. The word parallel is derived from the Greek word parallelos, meaning beside one another. It may be used as an adjective, noun or verb. Related words are parallels, paralleled, paralleling.

Perpendicular describes something that lies at a ninety-degree angle from a line or a plane, something that is at a right angle to a line or plane. Something that is perpendicular to another thing would touch that thing if set into motion, their intersection makes a right angle. The word perpendicular is derived from the Latin word perpendicularis, which means vertical, as a plumb line. A plumb line will hang straight down, making it perpendicular to the ground. Perpendicular may be used as an adjective or a noun, related words are perpendicularly and perpendicularity.


A woman trying to parallel park her car in Goodwin Street Tuesday, Sept. 6, bumped a parked SUV, pushing it downhill and into the Solid Rock Christian Church, according to Prescott Police Deputy Chief Amy Bonney. (The Daily Courier)

It will hold a rally parallel to Jubilee Party’s official launch that will take place at Safaricom Stadium Kasarani in Nairobi. (The Star)

“Because this is an irreplaceable opportunity to foster your child’s development at a point where it’s literally without parallel.” (The Atlantic Magazine)

“Planet Nine seems to be gravitationally influencing another nearby population of bodies that are also orbiting nearly perpendicular to the plane of the solar system,” Holman said. (The Daily Caller)

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